Featherstone welcomes summer with poetry and music

Featherstone welcomes summer with poetry and music

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Poet Annette Sandrock performed her spoken word piece during the fourth annual summer solstice celebration at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs on Thursday evening.

Although the official Summer Solstice would not take place until Saturday, a band of creative writers and musicians at Featherstone Center for the Arts could not wait another minute, and gathered to celebrate the new season on Thursday evening.

Dozens of people came to watch poets perform during the fourth annual Summer Solstice Celebration.

Dozens of people came to watch poets perform during the fourth annual Summer Solstice Celebration. — Michael Cummo

The sun took her sweet time sinking behind the trees, splashing the rich green lawns with vibrant patches of gold as revelers began arriving. They trooped up the amphitheatre slope bearing chairs, blankets, picnic gear, and extra warm layers just in case.

While one might have expected a jolly festival of rowdy dance, rollicking music, singalongs, and giggles, this celebration had a very different flavor, honoring the transitional spring-to-summer moment in a serenely thoughtful style.

Poet Ellie Bates, who organized this fourth annual Summer Solstice Celebration, welcomed the audience members, now settled comfortably on the grass, sipping and snacking, chatting, and marveling at the beauty of the still-sunny evening.

As the program went on she introduced a talented line-up of home-grown Island poets. Most, she reported, are members of the Martha’s Vineyard Poets’ Collective and the Cleaveland House Poets. Many had read at Featherstone, Pathways, and elsewhere; some had taught workshops, a few had one or more books to their credit.

Delighted with the audience turnout, and the large number of readers taking part, Ms. Bates said she felt the event was a perfect kick-off to the season and the Pathways, Featherstone, Noepe Center Summer Festival of Poetry held here in July and August.

Poet Clark Myers read a poem he wrote.

Poet Clark Myers read a poem he wrote. — Michael Cummo

Annette Sandrock’s sweet story-poem told of a daisy she picked in Spain, the happy day they spent – woman and flower: “I showed it birds, I saw the world from its point of view,… Me and Daisy, walking the path.” Her words gave the little blossom a personality, delicate and precious. We want to meet it.

Jill Jupen offered meditations on life, death, and their mysteries. In a flock of raucous crows she saw Cambodian elders, huddled, chattering: “everyone talking at once.”

Artist Harry Seymour paired his poems with paintings, modestly admitting this was his first attempt at poetry. No disclaimer was needed for his strong verses, including the powerful “Empty Swings,” a passionate cry-out against gun violence.

Barbara Peckham deftly moved from outrage in a diatribe against heartless politicians ignoring the poor and powerless (“while God’s children weep”) to a lusciously lyrical poetic seascape: “Miss Ocean wears her blue green dress embroidered with crystal beads…” We envision it appearing as a children’s picture book one day, iridescent illustrations to match the sparkling words.

Winonah Harrington tossed a bouquet of haikus, floating like bubbles, glittering spontaneous images suggesting stories. Clark Myers evoked old-fashioned family life in recalling his grandmother Ada.

Shellion Hamlett, left in jean jacket, and poet Winonah Harrington enjoying the performances.

Shellion Hamlett, left in jean jacket, and poet Winonah Harrington enjoying the performances. — Michael Cummo

There were more poets, and words kept on coming, rhymed and unrhymed, couplets, haikus, free form, evoking moods from dark to lighthearted, contemplative to zany.

Edgartown Poet Laureate Steve Ewing topped off the heady mix with his newly minted “Slow Roll,” describing memorable first-time treats with economical images: childhood ice-cream, chilled Campari in Italy, red poppies abloom in France. Then he described a magical sensation, a subtle shift as he sat outdoors at twilight: “The sun stopped setting and the earth took over.”

Also sharing their talents and poems were Ann Lees, Jennifer Smith Turner, Scott Crawford, William Waterway, Ms. Bates who offered a verse along with providing introductions, and Marianne Goldberg (whose poem, in her absence, was read by Annette Sandrock. 

Three easy rocking tunes by Lizzy Bradley and Mark Mazer, began with “Georgia on My Mind,” Ms. Bradley providing the sultry vocals and making a brilliant debut on electric guitar.

Christina Montoya jazzed up the atmosphere with a fiery, powerful, flirtatious poetry/dance performance, exuding joyful woman-energy.

At last the sun had all but disappeared when William Waterway took the stage, now shadowed under heavily leafed branches, ending the evening with haunting impressionistic tunes played on a simple Native American branch flute.

“The birds were singing – they gave me my direction,” he said afterwards.

Satiated with elegantly crafted poetry, delicious food for thought, the patrons slowly, reluctantly, headed home, driving down the hill beneath a still-light apricot tinged sky.